Hong Kong Island isn’t the only part of China’s special administrative region catching on to craft beer.
While tap bars like The Roundhouse, The Globe, and newcomer Tipping Point Brewing Company lead the considerable charge on the Hong Kong side — The Roundhouse is my favorite — these days even Kowloon has a handful of fancy beer dens in which to sate your craft beer fix. Both have somewhat surprising locations, and both are well worth a stop next time you’re in the area.
Highlighted by expansive floor-to-ceiling windows revealing one of the best Kowloon-side views of Hong Kong Island’s sweeping skyline, the buzzing Lobby Lounge at swish InterContinental Hong Kong is one of the more hip and happening hotel lobby bars I’ve visited in this part of the world. Pardon the cliche, but if there were ever a hotel bar to see and be seen, it’s this one, particularly after 7:30pm when the place is packed with a mix of locals and tourists in their finest smart-casual threads.
The drinks list is predictably long on top-shelf liquors, pricey wines, and classic cocktails, but this beer geek was thrilled to also find a fantastic beer list that included bottles from more than 15 different countries. Sure, there are plenty of snoozers — Heineken, Coors Light, San Miguel — but they’re balanced by selections from Baird Beer (Japan), Brouwerij de Molen (the Netherlands), Brouwerij Sterkens N.V. (Belgium), 8 Wired (New Zealand), Mountain Goat (Australia) and local stalwart Hong Kong Beer.
If you only try one bottle — and unless you’re rollin’ deep that’s probably all you can afford, with fancy beers running 115 – 155 Hong Kong dollars — go for the Kagua Rouge or Blanc from Japan’s Nippon Craft Beer. The Blanc, in particular, is a very special thing indeed: yuzu-forward aromas, round body, and the subtle taste of Japanese sancho peppers on the crisp, refreshing finish. You’d never guess it’s packing 8 % ABV. This beer has come up a number of times during recent interviews with various bar owners, and it certainly lives up to the hype.
Randomly tucked away among bank branches and flower shops on the first floor of the old Peninsula Centre, about 10 minutes on foot from the InterContinental Hong Kong, is tiny craft-beer bottle shop Craftissimo. There’s not much to it, really; it’s just a bottle shop, people. It may lack size and character — and the two very friendly ladies working there during both my visits admitted that they weren’t really craft beer drinkers, so don’t necessarily expect nuanced recommendations — but the selection is stellar and the prices reasonable.
You’ll note some big names on the shelves pictured above: Evil Twin Brewing, Mikkeller, Rogue Ales, Birra del Borgo, and if you look closely enough the great Founders Brewing Company from my homestate of Michigan. Many of the beers are also available chilled, and if you buy four or five bottles they’ll pack ’em in a nifty, reusable cloth bag with individual bottle slots for safe, easy transport. Pick a few favorites, then find a quiet spot on the coast for the nightly Symphony of Lights at 8pm. Depending on which beers you fancy, I’d estimate that you can grab three or four bottles for the price of one at InterContinental’s Lobby Lounge.
Look for discounted bottles in the craft beer crate; two beers from Italy’s Revelation Cat, for example, were marked down to just 20 HK during my recent visits.
Hat tip to Christopher DeWolf, who recently penned an excellent profile of Hong Kong’s craft beer scene for The Wall Street Journal that led me to Craftissimo.
InterContinental Hong Kong is located at 18 Salisbury Road in Kowloon. Lobby Lounge is open daily 7am – 12:30am; +852 2721 1211. Craftissimo is located at 67 Mody Road, Peninsula Centre, Shop 166, 1st floor. Open Monday – Saturday 12pm – 9pm; +852 6274 3130.